Masala: Justin Chon Sheds Light On Adoptee Deportation with ‘Blue Bayou’

With its tragic realism covering topics such as deportation, xenophobia and police brutality, “Blue Bayou” gives a glimpse into a very real fear that many Asian Americans live with. 

Filmmaker Justin Chon returns with “Blue Bayou,” which he wrote, directed and starred as Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean American adoptee from Louisiana who faces deportation and being separated from his family after an altercation with a police officer. 

As explained in the movie, a legal loophole, left by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 that granted citizenship to transnational adoptees, did not retroactively apply to adoptees over 18 who were already living in the U.S. at the time and is used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as cause to deport Americans who immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. This horrific technicality serves as the basis of Chon’s inspiration. “Nobody’s talking about this, nobody knows about this unless you’re directly affected … or you have an interest in these types of things,” he explained. “So I felt by making a movie … if it brings the right attention to it, that maybe something can change.” 

Although not an adoptee himself, Chon spent thousands of hours speaking to members of the adopted community in order to understand their experiences as a part of the greater Asian diaspora and how that differs from his own upbringing as a second-generation Korean immigrant. “Being from here, being born in the U.S. but being constantly asked [where are you really from] and then going back to Korea and them not considering me Korean either, it made me sort of wonder, ‘Well where do I belong?’” he said. “And I’ll never understand what it feels like to be adopted but it was my way … to possibly [understand] a little bit … of what they might go through because theirs is amplified times a million.” 

There is a common thread apparent in Chon’s films as he adds “Blue Bayou” to a repertoire that already includes 2017’s “Gook” and 2019’s “Ms. Purple,” stories that center the breadth of the Asian American experience. “I want to bring empathy to our experience and to us so that we get normalized in this country and aren’t seen as the other,” Chon said. “So for [‘Blue Bayou’]—because I do think the adopted experience is … very much a part of the Asian American experience—I wanted to represent that community in an honest, truthful way and make sure [adoptees] were a part of the conversation.” 

Watch the full interview for more and find out how you can support adoptees by checking out the Alliance for Adoptee Citizenship.